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Investigate Bush? Obama Indicates 'No'

Elements of the American left are pretty peeved that President Obama hasn’t swept away -- or even fully revealed -- controversial Bush-era anti-terrorism policies. Just one of many complaints: Whereas civil libertarians wanted mountains of classified documents on torture, rendition and other subjects speedily released, Obama appeared reticent to disclose a slew of Bush-era memos justifying so-called “enhanced interrogation” -- even though most of the content already seeped out.

Until this afternoon, that is, when the executive branch released a package of memos on enhanced interrogation that the Bush Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel penned. But with a catch: Among other things, the names of those who acted on the memos’ advice are redacted in order to protect government officials from getting prosecuted. Fair, as long as those officials were doing things Justice told them were legal. But that, along with the following passage in a statement the White House released today, will still no doubt rile Obama’s lefty critics:

“This is a time for reflection, not retribution....We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

That’s a barely veiled slap at the Democrats who seek a “Truth Commission” to investigate the formulation and implementation of Bush anti-terror policies. After looking through these and other such memos, which range from the embarrassing to the disgusting to the absurd, I have a lot of sympathy for the idea of a Truth Commission, which would document the excesses of the Bush administration.

But, in practice, such a commission convened right now would seem -- and might in fact become -- an exercise in political revenge, raising the stakes and consequences of partisan bickering even higher than they already are. Even if the commission were truly independent and objective -- remember Ken Starr? Wasn’t he supposed to be that? -- it would appear to lots of Americans to be a partisan sideshow -- exactly what Obama doesn’t need as he pushes an agenda of generation-defining reform. It might even do more damage to Obama than it does to Bush’s legacy, which is already so thoroughly battered that a Truth Commission couldn’t dent it much more.

As a practical matter, I would have as much of the nation’s short attention span fixed right now on the many huge questions surrounding Obama’s reform package -- are his big plans for health care, energy and education essential to economic recovery? Can he pay for the programs he’s proposing? -- rather than on the Bush administration’s already discredited conduct. If there is a time for a Truth Commission, this is not it.

By Stephen Stromberg  | April 16, 2009; 7:06 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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At a time when Obama is asking us to trust him with such big decisions, how can he ask us to dismiss the betrayals we suffered under his predecessor. The ONLY way i can trust Obama is if he is provides us with the open and transparent government he promised...and the first thing he can do is let the legal process run it's course on the criminal conduct we endured under Bush. It isn't as if he's just letting the prior administration off for minor transgressions against some paper rules...Bush and company broke longstanding laws and treaties and had our military and civil servants physically torture and maim real people. He cost citizens real money in bad wars and awful fiscal policies that helped his friends and hurt the rest of us. He destroyed our country's ability to negotiate with foreign countries from any position of strength. Obama does nothing to promote healing and trust in his administration by walking on past the wreckage left by Bush. Obama's taking a lot of risks that require LOTS of trust from voters. I'd strongly encourage him to show himself to be accountable and trustworthy if he doesn't want the crowds turning on him if any the risks he's taking don't turn out as he hopes.

Posted by: las100 | April 16, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Who's Obama think he's kidding with his look forward crapp. He's protecting Bush. He knows if people start digging in to this it'll lead to a lot more than water boarding. There's already been senate hearings on this with Jerrold Nadler where they talk about dozens of prisoners that were tortured to death. I don't know why the media isn't reporting it.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | April 16, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse















Posted by: dutchess2 | April 16, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

OMG! President Obama has just become a co-conspirator with Bush, Cheney, Addington, et. al.

Posted by: lexus012 | April 17, 2009 2:00 AM | Report abuse

The Executive Branch is required by US laws and international treaties which are the supreme law of the land as indicated in Art. VI of the Constitution to investigate and prosecute violaters of law. To avoid taints of "retribution" a Special Prosecutor should be immediately appointed. If we are to regain our self respect in our own eyes and in the eyes of the world community we can do no less. The matter should then be put into the judiciary for trial which is where it belongs so that the facts and any extenuating circumstances can be judged by a jury of their peers. Follow the trails of evidence and let the chips fall where they may. If President Obama or AG Holder do not do this they will become abettors of this black period in our history.

Posted by: DOBRYDN | April 17, 2009 2:03 AM | Report abuse

So Obama says that these CIA agents were only following orders, and therefore should be left alone. That excuse didn't wash for Nazi guards did it? The World Courts determined that "obeying orders" is no excuse for atrocities (murder, torture) committed. Never mind those who gave the orders.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | April 17, 2009 2:12 AM | Report abuse

"This is a time for reflection, not retribution." Obama's statements and decision not to prosecute persons during the Bush presidency who used torture, physical abuse, killing some people suggests, taken to an extreme "logic," there should never be punishment of any crimes. His comments could have been said by many Nazi and fascist Japanese officials, supporters who wanted to forget their nation's war crimes during World War II.

By condoning torture, human rights abuses, violations of the Geneva convention, the Obama administration is all but explicitly undermining any credibility in any United States official ever criticizing persons in other countries who use physical and human rights abuses.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | April 17, 2009 2:25 AM | Report abuse

The republicans have done what the democrats have been dreaming of and that is to so carelessly manage the government and the domestic economy, that any hope of the republicans gaining power for the next decade is sure to fail. I agree with peoples sentiment that Bush should be tried as a criminal, but this will have retributive costs for future democrats who lose power. I would also like to thank GWB for serendipitously creating a new America founded in liberalism.

Posted by: milesrider | April 17, 2009 3:20 AM | Report abuse

Skip the investigation and move immediately to execution.

Posted by: dem4life1 | April 17, 2009 5:25 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Ken Starr was never thought to be objective and non-partisan, certainly not by the doctrinaire Clinton-hating right wingers who chose him. Only WaPo, which thought him the very essence of a fine federal Judge, for reasons which undoubtedly had nothing to do with a libel decision he had rendered in their favor, treated Starr with the respect that his work as a prosecutor clearly establishes for all time that he did not deserve. The fact that an abortion of justice was committed then does not mean it must be committed now. To say that the Starr experience means that we should never have another special prosecutor would be like arguing that Brownie means that we should never again have an effective FEMA to aid disaster victims. Just silly.
How about Mr. Fitzgerald, who is respected by all sides?

Posted by: crestthree | April 17, 2009 6:41 AM | Report abuse

When the President says that nothing will be gained from prosecuting these sadists he fails to appreciate the deterrent effect it will have on future human rights violations. In essence, he has accepted the fact that the rule of law does not apply to members of select political and governmental classes in Amerika.Perhaps I should advise my next client who's lost his job to rob a bank. What do you think the Justice Department would do to me and my client? Double standard.

Posted by: attycanty | April 17, 2009 6:55 AM | Report abuse

start on abu garihb, where they dragged innocents off the street, imprisoned, and tortured them. this is the one that the whole world condemned- and continues to do so.

Posted by: auntywbush | April 17, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

I wish that all the people screaming for Bush to be imprisoned/executed/etc. would at least acknowledge that whatever his administration did, it wasn't done just because they felt like it. It was done to protect the country. That doesn't mean it was right.

Posted by: neckert7 | April 17, 2009 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Exactly. If you want to burn up Obama's honeymoon or at make it the major issue this year, consuming much of the national discourse,- have at it. It would result in a huge standoff with maybe a few people no one's heard of before going to jail. I've often joked - half-seriously we would still be having 6 degrees of seperation court cases related to Nixon and Watergate without the pardon.

Also, given that none of this was all that secret and discussed in public journals who allowed all this to happen? Well, you, the American public did. Hmmmmmm.

Posted by: jhtlag1 | April 17, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Obama is secretly on the Halliburton payroll, or Diebold, or something or other...can't keep my lefty conspiracies straight....

But I do know local Republican operatives have been stealing my paper!

Posted by: luca_20009 | April 17, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

As much as I'd like to see Bush & Co. behind bars, Obama is probably right. There is only so much political capital he has to spend, and it is better spent repairing the damage done by the dimwit in chief and his band of string pulling manipulators. The best revenge we have is to elect more Democrats and have a filibuster proof senate.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | April 17, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

You meant "reluctant" of course.

"Obama appeared reticent to disclose a slew of Bush-era memos"

Posted by: Astrogal | April 17, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

President Obama has played his new role as POTUS flawlessly for nearly 100 days. He has done everything he can to do the job we elected him to do, reversing many of the treasonous policies of the Bush/Cheney Kleptocracy. However, Obama did not get tot he White House without being a shrewd politician.

If he does "make a move" towards prosecuting anyone from Bush/Cheney, it will be through channels and without saber-rattling or fanfare. DOJ will probably pursue some of the "foot-soldiers" that were hands on thieves and torture-policy authors...and it will be through those low-lifes that they can reach up towards the well-protected (Bush administration).

Patience, fellow Americans, we must all ensure this governemnt stays on track and keeps raising the "ethical bar"...but don't expect things to happen at Hollywood speed.


Posted by: free-donny | April 17, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't have to be Obama that does it personally, but his AG should have invoked the principle of law... people need to be held accountable-- and that should start with Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Yoo, the now Berkeley law prof, who wrote the legal justifications.

What makes this even worse is that many who were tortured were innocent bystanders rounded up or unfairly targeted by neighbors.

Plus, torture doesn't work...

Anyone with any shred of decency would have known there was no justification for what was going on-- plus, I doubt if those doing the torturing were even that aware of the legal memos, some of which were written after the fact!

Posted by: Astrogal | April 17, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I wish that all the people screaming for Bush to be imprisoned/executed/etc. would at least acknowledge that whatever his administration did, it wasn't done just because they felt like it. It was done to protect the country. That doesn't mean it was right.

Posted by: neckert7 | April 17, 2009 7:15 AM

This type of behavior by our government puts our country and US citizens abroad at even greater risk. We cannot lower or moral standards and expect our enemies to raise theirs.

Posted by: qballgeek | April 17, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

free-donny is correct, no-drama-obama is not going to start show trials to make the point that torture is not an American value. Things will happen behind the scenes certainly.

But Obama is a politician and he and others will see a need to expose republicans for what they are and what they did, but probably much closer to the election cycle. Expect careful exposing of those who participated in torture, and its chain of command, around late 2010 and early 2011, less the public forget what the republicans did during their 8 years of power. So yes, patience fellow Americans, patience.

Posted by: bevjims1 | April 17, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

How about Mr. Fitzgerald, who is respected by all sides?

Posted by: crestthree | April 17, 2009 6:41 AM

Mr. Fitzgerald is respected by all sides?

What did he do about who outed a CIA agent?

Day before yesterday we had teabagging parties all over the country. They turned out to be appropriatly named after all, because we saw the old rapacious republican tricks, no one knows why they were out there, and the worst hatred for this president was permitted to be displayed full frontal.

You have missed it.

This president has looked Newt Gingrich, Dick Armry, John Boehner, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney in the eye.... and he said to the republicans:

If you stand for something, speak.

It is our government.

It is in the republicans hands whether the republican party truly dies of shame or
if there are any there who stand for anything.

Does half the country have a stake in what goes on, does it want one, and do they have the spine for it?

Posted by: dutchess2 | April 17, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

"I wish that all the people screaming for Bush to be imprisoned/executed/etc. would at least acknowledge that whatever his administration did, it wasn't done just because they felt like it. It was done to protect the country. That doesn't mean it was right."
Posted by: neckert7

How was invading Iraq protecting the country? How was ignoring a drowning city protecting the country? How was taking a vacation every month protecting the country? How was exposing a CIA agent out of spite protecting the country? How was lying to prosecutors protecting the country? How was a hands off approach to Wall Street protecting the country? How was threatening a government employee to not disclose the real cost of Medicare Part D protecting the country? How was hiring/firing people in DOJ based on religious and political bases protecting the country? How did spending America into triple the debt it had before protecting the country? And if protecting the country was so important, how did they ignore all the warning signs and red flags just before 911?

Sorry, but the pattern of deception, stupidity and arrogance the Bush administration and its republican enablers showed was not, ultimately, to protect the country. Its clear to me that protecting the country was the last thing on their minds. You only need to look at who was hired to do the work in Afganistan/Iraq, the money they were paid and the shoddy and poor work they did with little oversight, to see what was important.

Posted by: bevjims1 | April 17, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

This is way bigger than Bush or anyone in his administration. The acts they perpetrated were done in our name. We own it now. And the only way to cleanse this nation for following generations is to investigate everything that happened. When we get to the bottom of that huge steaming pile, perhaps we can see more clearly how to prevent it from ever happening again.

Posted by: tmcproductions2004 | April 17, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

So the rule seems to be: as long as an intellectually and morally bankrupt attorney can be found and appointed to the Justice Department to issue a twisted opinion that what the administration wants to do is legal, the worst that can be done to anyone (including that attorney) is having fingers wagged at them.

We set a standard after World War II: both the leaders and those who obeyed their immoral orders are responsible for their actions. Indeed, right now the government is trying to deport former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who faces arrest and trial in Germany for his role in the Holocaust. Apparently we are not willing to live by the same standard.

This is not only a disgrace, it's an open invitation for a future administration to do it all over again.

Posted by: mstein | April 17, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

I really don't care if a Truth Commission or prosecutions will be a distraction to the Administration, to the public, or both.

The atrocious acts committed can be neither forgiven nor forgotten. If torturers and those who told them to torture are given a free pass, will anything, ever, be dealt with in a court?

Posted by: beefchop423 | April 17, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse


It looks like Obama is proposing a new system where we have two classes; one where Politicians and government employees are IMMUNE from criminal prosecution for major crimes and the rest of us who are PROSECUTED for even small criminal acts!

I don't like the sound of this NEW Obama America! I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK, RESTORE RULE OF LAW! We had the RULE OF BUSH, look what that costs us, we can not afford the RULE OF OBAMA or anything less than the RESTORATION of RULE OF LAW!


NO GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARDS FOR MAJOR CRIMINALS...even if they are "POLITICIANS"; correction: especially if they are POLITICIANS!

DEMS = Party of FALSE Promises!


Posted by: fixitj | April 17, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Tactically sound, strategically a disaster. The truth shall set you free. The USA needs to deal with the crimes of the Bush Gov. through its legal system. Only then will the world trust the US again.

Posted by: brux1 | April 17, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the comment above that we have not heard the last of this, and the DOJ will find a way to prosecute. I want to see the higher-ups, those whose condoned and encouraged torture prosecuted for their crimes. They took America's reputation and ruined it.

I think the wheels of justice will continue to turn. They always turn slowly, but they keep moving. The torture enablers will be prosecuted.

Posted by: joyousMinn | April 17, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

One small point on the editorial: most credible (i.e. non-Bush and his cronies) sources seem to maintain, with apparently valid evidence, that Abu Zubaydah was NOT an al-Qai'da "leader" and provided little, if any, useful information, despite the blatant distortions and misrepresentations by the Bush administration.
Bush/Cheney et al callously devalued/degraded/debased American democracy into the simple-minded slogan "we kept you safe." Is that all American democracy was worth? It doesn't follow from any American traditions or values that I'm aware of. Any despot in the world would most certainly maintain the same thing for his nation...and for the same cynical, self-serving reason: to retain power.
There are people who deserve to be tried, in court, for their actions in perverting the Constitution and violating US and international laws. As noted above, the "just following orders" excuse went out with the Nazis; as I understand it, Japanese officers were prosecuted after WWII for using "waterboarding" on POWs. We also loudly condemned the Chinese for using, on Korean War POWs, the same interrogation "techniques" used in CIA detention "centers." How can all this be excused away?
I certainly hope those above who think justice will still be served are right. It's an unfortunate fact that there are actually no sure ways to prevent these things from happening again in the future, but court cases now would certainly help "focus the minds" of anyone contemplating such actions again.

Posted by: Rigged | April 17, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

The conclusion to draw is that Obama wants other countries, by default, to sue members of the Bush administration for war crimes. But now they can also sue him. According to Article 2(3) of the International Convention Against Torture, "An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture." Meanwhile, there are reports of ongoing beatings at Guantanamo, instances of war crimes that are beginning to replicate those in the recent book "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administrations Liability for 269 War Crimes."

Posted by: mikehaas | April 17, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I believe that the Administration doesn't want an investigation because it would reveal just how many members of Congress were aware of what was taking place. Bear in mind that every member of Congress has one goal and that is to stay in power. Best not to reveal that we really didn't care...

Posted by: JoeKnack | April 17, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I have never been so disappointed in anyone as I am with President Obama. I thought he was a real change from the usual politicians. Instead he is part of the same club as the rest of them. I will not waste my vote a second time. My faith has been misplaced.

Posted by: monbac07 | April 17, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I am an attorney, as is President Obama. I am shocked and embarassed by President Obama's decision to "put torture behind us". Unlike Pres. G.W.Bush, President knows better. President Obama, like I, swore to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the U.S. If I, or any other attorney, chose to commit a serious criminal offense, and was found guilty for doing so, I am quite sure that I would be indicted, convicted, sentenced, and forever lose my license to practice law every where in the U.S.

I have read the "opinions" written by the several U.S. Justice Department attorneys, and it makes my blood literally boil. And to think that one of the authors of those opinions is now a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Justice, is an outrage. Make no mistake, the attorneys who wrote the opinions violated the law, and they knew it, and anyone involved with the creation of those "opinions" knew that the "opinions" violated the law. In law, all of those involved are co-conspirators, or at a minimum, accessories after the fact. If President Obama decides not to prosecute those who created, and committed the fraud, in creating the "loophole" to violate Federal criminal law, then he is not the person of the type of character that I believed he possessed when I worked for and voted for him in Ohio.

In my last 30+ years, I have traveled to countries on three continents. Except for the G.W. Bush years, and without fail, the citizenry of those countries admired the legal premises on whihc the U.S. was founded. I shudder to think what they now think of our President's committment to justice and the "rule of law". How do we justify not prosecuting the "violators" of international law and U.S. law. How do we justify Nuremburg prosecutions for past violations of international law? How do we say it was an international war crime to slaughter innocents in central Europe in the 1930's and 1940's and yet, in this new millenium, the torture by our government, and handed out by our citizens/soldiers is not a crime. Any protection granted by President Obama makes nothing more than an accessory after the fact, and in breach of his duties, and his solemn promise, to enforce, protect and defend the laws of the U.S.
As for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Justice, he should be removed as a Federal Judge, by impeachemnt as provided by the U.S. Constitution, and disbarred so that this counrty will have at least one less attorney who has failed to take his oath of admission to the Bars of this country seriously. While maybe the "grunts" who were ordered to "torture" can be forgiven, the authors of any criminal enterprize should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law - they knew the law and they created a "legal fiction" to ignore the law.

May they all rest in peace, in JAIL.

And I our President does not have the courage to prosecute these felons, then maybe we made a mistake in believing in him.

Posted by: dfaesq | April 17, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"Fair, as long as those officials were doing things Justice told them were legal."

Now where have I heard that argument before? Ah, yes.

"Befehl ist Befeh", literally "order is order." Wikipedia calls it the "Nuremberg defense." Unfortunately, it appears we will have no Nuremberg tribual judge our torturers.

Posted by: CarolAnne1 | April 17, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse


Stromberg wrote:

"The White House released (torture memos) today, will still no doubt rile Obama’s lefty critics"

This puts us back where we started: Progressives think torture is wrong and 'righties' are cool with it.

I find that very interesting.


Posted by: printthis | April 17, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I think that Obama has big plans for this country and knows that if he puts his political capital into prosecuting war crimes he will only split the country even further and not accomplish his goals for health care reform, fixing the economy and green energy.

He also knows that it will be near-impossible to convict any of these guys since the previous administration could claim that extraordinary measures were needed because we were at war with terrorists.

Posted by: JRM2 | April 17, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

" Unfortunately, it appears we will have no Nuremberg tribual judge our torturers.

Posted by: CarolAnne1 | April 17, 2009 1:14 PM"
I am against torture, but let's not forget the distinction here: The Nazis killed and tortured several million Jews for the purpose of genocide. Our "enhanced interrogation techniques" were used to try to prevent another horrifying terrorist attack. Therefore, I do not see a fair parallel between the Nuremberg trials and what the previous administration has done.

Posted by: JRM2 | April 17, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I really think most all these comments have merit. I voted for Obama on the idea of change and it looks like when he got a taste of the power we are back to bush. It is up to the LAW of the land to decide these criminal activities not politicians including Obama. We need to take some power grabbed by these people back.These issues do need to be tested in court and resolved.If the average citizen pulled this stuff they would be accused by now and off to a secret jail . Starting out bush and chaney should be held for a few years until a crooked deal can be pulled to move them.

Posted by: m-walter | April 17, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Good post. Although I think I can stretch my attention to include serious scandals.

Posted by: dpascover | April 17, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I put in one comment yesterday and still feel the same way today. Today a question! Why are some of the commentators, and some of the writers in fear of what prosecuting goverment criminals will do to all us dumb little people??? We are not going to fall apart bro!!!! The left, middle way out limp wrist,right, crazy little people,ect will do ok.

Posted by: m-walter | April 17, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

OMG! My President Obama has joined the Cabal around torture.

I'm devastated.

Posted by: Regeman | April 17, 2009 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Not a single poster here wonders why the republicans don't call for an investigation...

They are STILL sitting on several appointments to President Obama's cabinet, just obstructing where-ever they can.

They have no interest in the integrity or trustworthyness of this country..

They are dangling tea bags on little old ladies while the Nation is fighting for its life on several fronts.

You cannot rip out Spooks, special ops and CIA agents by the roots and dangle them before the public - arrest and try a POTSU and a VP for war crimes with half the country not even caring, let alone approving.

Among the things you can do is eliminate all the like minded Congress that ran interference for the rogue government.

And hope that whatever new party forms and stands with the democrats to take care of this country they have some integrity.

Posted by: dutchess2 | April 17, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Obama has NOT CLOSED the door on all prosecutions. Go back and read what he said again.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | April 18, 2009 2:33 AM | Report abuse

I am really torn. I seem to understand some of it but, I really want to have this investigated more. Why? Based on the information from the former Administration, CIA, FBI, National Security, Secret Service and other agencies the citizens of the US are relying on this information to have been true to the extent that we went to War and are fighting a War still with blinders on.
Now President Obama wants to continue going to Afganistan with this falsified crap and follow up what this former Administration says is crucial. Why? How can we trust anything the Bush/Chaney Administration did or said. Just the name alone: "Toture Memo" makes one cringe. Not to mention, whatever information we got can be termed illegal and we still are fighting a War and going into another with a few terrorism tactics that we are accusing them of. Putting someone in a box, treating them less than humane is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention. However, do you think Bush and Chaney really cared. They actually at first did not know what to do but it gave them opportunity to do some covering up and some investing "under the rug type". There were threats but, "Intelligence screwed up". So, rather than say that they continued to screw up even more.

Posted by: Scar1 | April 18, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

To futher explain: We can get beyond the past by knowing the truth so we can know for ourselves how to proceed. It is really not up to President Obama. It is up to the Justice Department, Attorney Holder and the State Department Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. So, do not put President Obama out front-he has backup. UMMMM?

Posted by: Scar1 | April 18, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

It always amazes me when it comes to Law and agencies that are suppose to protect us. They always have some reason why they cannot tell you everything. Alway explained with Memo-attachment: Top Secret.
End of story.

Posted by: Scar1 | April 18, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Enforcing the nation's laws should not be a political decision. There it is in a nutshell. Anything and everything else is just clarification, explanation, rationale of how the legal situation should be handled. Prosecution of crimes is the role of the justice department. It is up to the law of the land to prosecute criminal activities. It is not for politicians, including the President, to decide whether or not the law should be applied. Remember, we have three EQUAL branches of government.

Posted by: Kristin2 | April 18, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

During the Nurmberg trials we had no patience with the Nazi's excuse, "We were only following orders". Now it seems that the President--for whom I voted whole-heartedly--is invoking it on behalf of the perpetrators of torture. I am disappointed beyond words

Posted by: bcass05 | April 18, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Like with Pinochet and Chile it will probably be some other country that does it.
But until we know what they did under secrecy in this country will we know if our internal paranoia also merits such scrutiny. Things can be swept under the carpet but they also can have the bad habit up popping up when least expected. And as in the past, sometimes it is the covering up that attracts attention. Don't you people at the WP remember that??

Posted by: cgillard | April 18, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The problem with Obama's approach is that war crimes are ongoing NOW under his administration, so he appears to be a hypocrite for closing Guantanamo but not stopping the abuses at Guantanamo or preventing future abuses at Bagram Air Force Base and other prisons containing prisoners of war. Moreover, he can now be sued (for compensation) by past and present victims of torture on the basis of provisions in the Torture Convention and other international agreements for failing to prosecute those who tortured and for absolving torturers of liability.

Posted by: polfilms | April 19, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Every yankee that support or participated in torture should be send to prison for life or executed were he /she stands. No exeptions, u.s. torture scumbags must be punished severly now.

Posted by: jwholtkamp | April 19, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

OK, if justice isnt gonna be done, than,




Posted by: jwholtkamp | April 19, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I am ashamed to be an American. If I were to try some of those tactics in George Bush's torture memos on my dog, I would go to jail with a loud public outcry. People have done less to dogs and have been prosecuted harshly for it. Yet our government used nefarious legal reasoning to do these shameless acts to other human beings. Yes they may have been horrible people intent on harming our country, but there are ways to deal with them that do not require us to stoop to their level or lower. But to use simulated drownings (waterboarding) on a person over 180 times? Repeatedly banging their heads into the wall? Or hitting and causing pain to their private parts? What have we become?

We prosecuted and hung Japanese after World War II for doing some of the same things we did to prisoners under our control. Arguing whether we should reveal or not reveal the memos is puffery: the real argument is how we got to these memos and what is the suitable punishment for those that put those acts into practice. A lot of the people arguing that we shouldn't have revealed the memos were complicit in drafting and enacting them and are probably afraid of prosecution for their part in this shameless episode. They can plead for continued secrecy; that doesn't make what they did right or legal. The true harm is not in the revealing of these tactics: most of that information was out in the public domain. What has suffered is our prestige as the country that promotes freedom and human rights. We're right there on the same scale as North Korea, Cuban and other Arabic and African dictatorships. We should be ashamed at what our system of laws has made permissible. We should be ashamed to be Americans. And we should be calling for those that wrote and acted on these memos to be publicly shamed. As an American that travel overseas frequently, I would be very afraid if I was subjected to some of these tactics by a foreign government. But now we have no legal basis to say whether they're right or wrong; we've legalized them in our own country. It is not a stretch to say that our government could have or probably did use these tactics on American citizens on American soil. What an outrage and bad stain on our country.

Posted by: ATLGuy | April 20, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Enforcing or not enforcing the nation's laws should not be a political decision. If we are to continue to be a nation of laws --not a nation of rulers who decide thumbs up or thumbs down in any legal circumstance --then the president cannot choose to have the government obey or not obey a particular law of the land. Deciding to enforce or not enforce the national and international laws on torture is not a power given to the US president.

Posted by: Kristin2 | April 20, 2009 4:35 AM | Report abuse

Nixon once said that "if the President does it, it's legal". Every Pres. since then has taken that to heart. President Obama promised us justice when he was running for his job. Now that he has the job he is no keeping that key promise. Kristen2 just before me laid it out in the simplest terms of how most Americans think and feel.I hope she doesn't mind me quoting her below.

"Enforcing or not enforcing the nation's laws should not be a political decision. If we are to continue to be a nation of laws --not a nation of rulers who decide thumbs up or thumbs down in any legal circumstance --then the president cannot choose to have the government obey or not obey a particular law of the land. Deciding to enforce or not enforce the national and international laws on torture is not a power given to the US president."

Our Treaties make it very clear that to NOT bring charges against Bush and his Admin. officials is breaking the law. It saddens me to watch as Obama becomes a partner in those War Crimes. Obamas version of tranparency seems to have switch on it to turn off when it comes to the Ruling class.

Posted by: SmileySam | April 20, 2009 5:30 AM | Report abuse

Well Stromberg, you are clearly contributing to the drug war carnage in Mexico, because whatever you smoked to lead you to your conclusions can't possibly be legal. How can you compare the Clinton impeachment, which was a political hit job obsessed with real estate deals and Oval Office sex, to the protections of our basic Constitutional rights?! They are not equivalent and you know it! The time for the rule of law is not when it's most convenient, but especially for when it's most inconvenient. That's why it's called the RULE of law, not the "could you maybe pencil me in for after the election - I can wait" of law.

These are rights men and women have suffered death, injury, beatings, ignominy and hatred over centuries. You spit on their sacrifice and legacy by saying it's to inconvenient - "a distraction" - to defend. Shame on you, Stromberg, and on everyone who feels as you do.

Posted by: treetopflyer | April 20, 2009 6:21 AM | Report abuse

What this country needs is a reign of terror, with a lot of would-be Robespierres manning the guillotines. That will surely help us all get back on our feet.

It is true any economic recovery efforts might go forward better and more easily if vendettta-prone Congressmen and women are diverted to search and destroy operations on their political opponents.

Surely, decapitatiing a few people in the previous administration will bring about more unity in Congress.

Posted by: hyood | April 20, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Bush stole so many billions while he was in office, he can afford to hire every lawyer in the world to defend him.

Posted by: lindalovejones | April 20, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Well, he's not pardoning him either!

Posted by: lindalovejones | April 20, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

How will we learn from past mistakes if we don't know what happened? If it's all above-board and justifiable, why not reveal them and trust the people of America to judge it so? Even the president is a public servant, not a public parent - Americans do not need to be shielded from the recent past, we can handle it.
Let's go back all the way to 2000, starting with Cheney's classified conversations with oil company executives regarding Bush energy policy.

Posted by: sons1 | April 20, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

I still remember, from my days as a journalist/broadcaster, a dictator, head of state, whispering in my ears that the West commits the same kind of atrocities as developing nations do, the only difference being that western countries have the means to conceal their illegal acts, by virtue of their economic and (pseudo legal?) political power.

I am a non-practicing International Human Rights Lawyer, and a fairly new American citizen. I voted for Obama, and I still want to believe that he is a man of his word. I just can not understand what in the world he is thinking by not simply handing the torture allegations to the DOJ?

I came to this country, by way of West Africa, Western Europe, thinking that it is one of the few on this earth that can more closely abide by the rule of law, and now this?!!!

Obama needs to come clean in this situation, and state, in no unclear terms, that those who break the Constitution and International law shall be accountable to the US justice system. Period.

Posted by: luisahandem1 | April 21, 2009 1:56 AM | Report abuse

Only Banana Republics criminalize politics for the sake of personal political gain. Of course, we're not too far off now...

Posted by: BinkyLover | April 21, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

mr bush is responsible for done a huge damage to secuirty of united well as mentioed above that he has form a millions of problems for united states on the name war on terror.history will prove that he has eradicate priorty and fare respect of usa in muslim world.on behalf of jewish loby he has thrown ameica on that situation where is no return point.not only nvestigate him but he has also given a punish

Posted by: sohail150 | April 21, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Waterboarding or this:
I would like TOP SECRET memos released that can tell us just how many CIA agents, American soldiers, journalists, citizens have been beheaded by Islamic terrorists.

Posted by: scecil1 | April 22, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

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